13
May
10

THE DEAD WEATHER “Sea of Cowards” (2010)


THE DEAD WEATHERSea of Cowards” (2010)

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Shake your hips like battleships
Yeah, all the white girls trip when I
Sing at Sunday service
Jack White via  Blue Blood Blues

That lyric comes from the opening track to THE DEAD WEATHER’s sophomore release in just under a year.

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In stark contrast to its predecessor, Horehound, the new opus Sea of Cowards is more guitar-driven and a slightly darker affair – yet, equally as potent.

Appearing on the heels of the “rock guitar” tribute documentary IT MIGHT GET LOUD, I imagine that Jack White has fulfilled on his threat  to try to get “these guys (LED ZEPPELIN’s Jimmy Page and U2’s The Edge) to give up their secrets”.

In the case of “Sea of Cowards”, LED ZEPPELIN seems to have been a major influence while still retaining the band’s signature style. White (on drums) and his co-horts Alison Mosshart (vocals), Dean Fertita (guitar & keyboards) “Little Jack” Lawrence (bass) have carved out their own unique somewhat sparse sound that emphasizes drums, organ/keyboards and bass guitar that at times (for me) recalls classic DEEP PURPLE (the keyboard/organ sound, that is). Yes, the hard rock electric guitar rears its head on occasion, but you don’t hear it as much on the debut as you do here on “…Cowards. This time the guitar is “the star” of the show.

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I’m curious if White is mimicking some of ZEPPELIN’s early tactics, by releasing a 2nd album in just under a year, the same way that Page & Co. put out LED ZEPPELIN “I” and LED ZEPPELIN “II” within the same time frame. I wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out to be the case.

Like those first two ZEPPELIN albums, the debut has a collection of instantly memorable songs, whereas the second album – in comparsion – not as much. That’s not to say, Sea of Cowards is not as good as Horehound” – because it is. But just as the very popular ZEPPELIN “II” is primarily defined by one song “Whole Lotta Love”, so is “…Cowards with the heavy groove track Gasoline – a song that wears the ZEPPELIN influence unabashedly on its sleeves. The matching drum fill/guitar riff at the 2:30 minute mark is reminiscent of ZEPPELIN’s similar ending to “Dazed & Confused” (off of their debut album). Hell, even the guitar-tone conjures up Jimmy Page.

I’m not going to bother discussing the lyrics, since they are open to interpretation.

Muscially-speaking, let’s go for a track by track dissection:

1) “Blue Blood Blues – opening with a dark ominous bass & guitar blues riff/groove that has shades of ZEPPELIN’s “Heartbreaker” (albeit deconstructed). Definitely a killer opener that sets the tone for the rest of the album. I first heard the song, via a YouTube clip showcasing their appearance at Coachella. The song sounds heavier live.

2) “Hustle And Cuss – this track brings a John Bonham-style drum groove to the forefront, with a bass line that kinda recalls ZEPPELIN’s “Poor Tom” (from the “Coda” album). I think it makes a nice companion piece to THE DEAD WEATHER’s Bone House track on Horehound – just a cool – dare I say, sexy groove.

3) “The Difference Between Us – this track brings us back to the style developed on Horehound with its spacey keyboard-driven sound, which builds to a rocking adrenaline-fueled attack before revolving back to its spacey core.

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4) “I’m Mad – the only track that I feel is a pointless exercise. With Mosshart screaming out the title repeatedly, each punctuated by a “haha”, the song feels like an unnecessary segueway between songs. There’s some interesting tempo changes here and there. However, I almost prefer this track as an instrumental. Essentially that’s what it is – a filler track.

5) “Die By The Drop – now we return to the action – another tune that would’ve been at home on Horehound. I wish the debut had more noticeable guitar on it, like this track. The chorus almost has a WHITE STRIPES vibe to it (ala their last album Icky Thump”)

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6) “I Can’t Hear You – a cool bluesy tune that I saw the band play live in June of 2009. You can almost smell the beer & cigarettes emanating off this track, like passing by some dingy pool hall. May not be “authentic” blues. But it does have some atmosphere too it.

7) “Gasoline– my absolute favorite track on the album – a marriage of ZEPPELIN guitar tone and DEEP PURPLE keyboard histrionics. This is this album’s “Whole Lotta Love” – the standout heavy rock track. The whole band shines here, especially Mosshart – belting her lungs out like her life depended on it (at gunpoint maybe).

Check out the not-really-a video clip of the song below:


8 ) “No Horse – another song the band debuted live on their first tour. This studio version is a letdown, when compared to version I saw them do last summer. Mosshart was on a roll in her stage antics during this song. Her vocal delivery (and the band’s performance) had more attack to it, and during the chorus “I sit and watch my cigarette smoking on itself” she would aggressively stroll to one side of the stage, sit cross-legged on a speaker and sing that line, then do the same on the other end of the stage. It was a very cool sight to see, since that’s where my friends and I were positioned at.

Hearing the song now, brings back some fond memories. Yet, at the same time, the band didn’t recapture (in the studio) the energetic vibe of the live version we saw. Still, a cool short but sweet tune though.

9) “Looking At The Invisible Man – more spacey psychedelia with this one. Nuff said.

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10) “Jawbreaker – another track I saw the band perform last summer. This version DOES recapture the live vibe I witnessed. A rumpus bump & grind groove that definitely gets everyone’s heads bobbin’ and/or feet tappin’.

11) “Old Mary – the album’s dark & moody conclusion – similar to the debut’s final trackWill There Be Enough Water? – but more uptempo and not as effective.

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In essence, Sea of Cowards – certain criticisms-aside – is not a sophomore slump. Like its predecessorSea of Cowards will grow on me the more I play it. The sequencing of the songs arrangements is more seamless this time around, making the listening experience much more enjoyable. Horehound, on the other hand, could be more effective if the order of the songs were rearranged.

I’m curious to see where the band goes to on album 3, provided there will be a third release. After all, will there be a new RACONTEURS album (or a WHITE STRIPES album for that matter) before Jack White decides to start a new project?

If you dug THE DEAD WEATHER’s Horehound, then I definitely recommend Sea of Cowards. Now, go bust out your 6-pack of beer and take in it’s ZEPPELIN-esque vibes.

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7 Responses to “THE DEAD WEATHER “Sea of Cowards” (2010)”


  1. May 14, 2010 at 11:41 am

    I will revisit this later, I’m still waiting for my copy via mail order. But wow… what a blog. You should be a music reviewer. Also, did you share this link on the Candy Cane Children and LedZeppelin.com forums? If not, you should!

    Good on you.

    Staci

  2. May 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Thank you Staci! Anything is possible. Movies and Music are my primary passions. So, who knows? Maybe I should try and write about music as well film until I am in the position to successfully make movies and play music (again).

    I’ll check out LED ZEPPELIN.com today. Thanks for the tip.

    ~T.

  3. May 16, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Incredible post Terrence! Thanks for putting it together. This album is, of course, in heavy rotation with me right now. I hope I get to see them again this tour but I am not sure if they are going to come close enough this time.

    • May 16, 2010 at 8:46 am

      Right on, Jeremy! I’m glad you enjoy the album as much as I do. Yeah, I want to see them play next month here in LA, but don’t think I can. Jack White’s wife, KAREN ELSON also has an LA gig around the same time – I’d like to see her and her band perform as well (even just out of curiosity).

  4. 6 cherylolsontx
    November 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Very nice to read a music/ album review by someone who actually knows what they are talking about and has a frame of reference! Thanks.


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